Three Iranian journalists released from jail, but dozens remain behind bars

Journalists Marzieh Rasouli, Parastoo Dokouhaki and Sahamoddin Bourghani have been released from jail in Iran after securing bail. But it has come at a price

Good news about the situation of journalists behind bars in Iran is rare, especially these days when the regime has stepped up its crackdown on any sign of dissent ahead of Friday’s parliamentary elections.

But here is some good news, of a sort: Three Iranian journalists, Marzieh Rasouli, Parastoo Dokouhaki and Sahamoddin Bourghani – whose arrests we reported here in January – have now been released after securing bail, according to opposition websites. But it hasn’t come cheap. Rasouli, a prominent journalist working for a reformist newspaper in Tehran, is reported to have provided the equivalent of almost £100,000.

Since their arrests, the three have had little access to the outside world. Their friends and families who were worried for their safety, can now breathe a sigh of relief. Although it’s not necessarily the end of their troubles. They might yet be summoned to court and face trial.

At the time of the arrests, it was unclear why the authorities had gone for them but some of their friends were under the impression that the regime had picked them up on suspicion of having links to the BBC’s Persian TV, which is banned in the country. Human rights activists warned that Rasouli, Dokouhaki and Bourghani were under pressure from the regime to appear in front of camera, confessing to have collaborated with the BBC. Iran is said to have plans to broadcast a documentary critical of the BBC Persian within days. It’s not clear whether the three journalists appeared in it.

BBC Persian has repeatedly said it has no staff in the Islamic republic. And despite the regime’s occasional jamming of BBC Persian and intimidation of relatives of staff, the channel said its audience in the country has doubled to 6m.

The bad news, however, is that dozens of other Iranian journalists still remain in jail. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which described Iran as the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with 42 behind bars, in its recent report of press freedom in 2011, has warned of a fresh crackdown ahead of this week’s vote in the country (Read CPJ’s statement here).

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), a non-government organisation based in the US, expressed concern this week over the health of Mehdi Khazali, a blogger who remains in temporary detention on hunger strike. Read more here.

Speaking to the ICHRI, Khazali’s son, Mohammad Saleh, said: “It has been 49 days since he embarked on a hunger strike and he has only had liquids … Last week, when my father’s condition deteriorated, they transferred him to the hospital. When we saw him in the hospital, we couldn’t believe it was him. His weight loss was unbelievable; he was so thin. We are afraid something bad might happen to my father.”

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from Saeed Kamali Dehghan


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